The education of children is one of the most controversial issues in society today. Budgetary squabbles over the disbursement and use of billions of dollars each year continue apace. Add to that a recent Commonwealth Court ruling which determined that Pennsylvania’s educational funding system violates the state constitution because some students are receiving a less than adequate education and things get even more contentious.
“The disparity among school districts with high property values and incomes and school districts with low property values and incomes is not justified by any compelling government interest nor is it rationally related to any legitimate government objective,” Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer wrote. “As a result of these disparities, Petitioners and students attending low-wealth districts are being deprived of equal protection of law.” (The ruling did not provide a clear solution, so we can expect more of the same: ever-increasing budgets for government education.)
All this focus on education, however, ought to remind Christian parents of their duty to educate their children in the way they should go.
‘Teach Them Diligently’
Undeniably, the education of children is of utmost importance. The Lord instructed his people to diligently teach their children “these words that I command you today” (Deuteronomy 6:6). Christian parents are directed to bring up their children in “the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Such is true education, and it is couched in terms of the family – hence, the family is the center of a child’s education in a well-ordered society.
Sadly, in one of several serious missteps in Pennsylvanian history, the Pennsylvania Constitution was adapted in 1874 to make the state (rather than the family) central in a child’s education. Most of the commonwealth’s professing Christians seemed to have gone along with the measure. And Republicans today would probably do it all over again. It certainly seems they have no problem voting for billions of dollars to go to government education each year.
That 1874 change required the General Assembly to “provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.”
And now, a century and a half later, many professing Christians have fully embraced the mindset. They would agree with State Rep. Ismail Smith-Wade-El (D-49), who applauded Jubelirer’s ruling, calling “high-quality education” the “right of every child in the state of Pennsylvania.”
I guess he is correct, in a Rousseauian and Marxist sort of way. After all, free (read: forced taxation to the tune of billions of dollars) education for all children in public schools is the tenth plank of Karl Marx’s Manifesto.
The socialistic civil government of Pennsylvania has their own version of “teach them diligently.” Only their version is not based on the life-giving Word of God – it is based on humanistic hogwash such as Darwinian evolution and transgenderism. But they know exactly what they are doing in perverting the charge to Christian parents. “Give us your kids,” the state says. “And we will bring them up in the discipline and instruction of fallen man.” What could go wrong?
The state’s involvement in education is a real problem. Despite statist mantras and talking points, government education is not fixing any problems (on the contrary, it is exacerbating them) and eliminating public education would not mean the collapse of our society (on the contrary, its continuance is contributing to such a collapse). But that is a discussion for another editorial. An even deeper problem, and one I will address here, is that Christian parents have failed to take responsibility for educating their own children and have voluntarily given them over to the state.
And the pulpits have led the way. How many pastors are sending their children to be educated at the socialist government indoctrination centers?
A God of Means
Part of the reason for the ease with which the professing church has handed their children over to the state is a lack of understanding (or care) about what God says about the children of Christians.
The Christian home is to be a place of great blessing and nurture. The instruction of godly parents leads “to length of days and years of life” to the hearkening child (Proverbs 3:1). Furthermore, God has promised to bless those who love him and keep his commandments, even to a thousand generations (cf. Deuteronomy 5:10; 7:9). This is a precious generational promise to Christian parents. God honors parents who diligently keep the commandments of God’s Law-Word concerning the education of their children. Proverbs puts it like this: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (22:6).
Concerning God’s promises and our duty, the Bible teaches two unassailable realities: God is sovereign over all things, and we are responsible for obeying his Word. If the Arminians err to one side, the hyper-Calvinists wander over to the other side.
The covenant-keeping God bestows his grace freely, but he uses means to accomplish his sovereign purposes. And one of the primary means he has chosen to use is that of Christian parents diligently teaching their children all the words of God’s Law (i.e., education).
The attentive reader will at once notice both the great encouragement and the serious warning present in the abovementioned scriptural realities. On the one hand, we should humbly expect God to keep his word concerning obedience to his commands. On the other hand, we should humbly expect God to keep his word concerning disobedience to his commands.
This biblical dichotomy is present in even some of the most prosaic passages: “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).
Christian parents err greatly when they assume that taking their children to church, or baptizing them, or signing them up for Vacation Bible School, means they are fulfilling their duty as parents. Being born in a Christian home with such a low view of the duty of Christian instruction is not a blessing. In fact, it is a curse, as the child is raised with a shallow, superficial understanding of Christianity.
Christian parents resting on the fact that their children will turn out fine despite being educated by humanists and pagans are presuming upon God’s grace and ignoring the means God has given for the dispensing of that grace.
There is hardly a more important task for a Christian father and mother to be immersed in than the instruction of their children. And we have our work cut out for us because all children, regardless of their parentage, are born with sinful natures.
Author and pastor Doug Wilson writes, “Every child who comes into the home is therefore by nature a little bundle of unfocused sin.” Our job is to faithfully instruct them in the way they should go in every area of life (reading, writing, etc.), help them learn to work for God’s glory, correct and rebuke them when they break God’s Law, teach them the glorious gospel that saves bundles of sin from their sin, and patiently urge them to continually rely upon God’s grace for salvation, lest they perish, both temporally and eternally. In other words, we are to provide them with a comprehensive Christian education, in the hopes that our children will trust in Christ and follow him. God alone saves, but we are tasked with obeying what he has told us to do regarding the instruction of our children. As Wilson puts it, “Good children are not an accident. God gives everyone rotten children.”
The professing church in America has lost her way in this area. We have lost sight of both the glorious blessing and the sobering responsibility that God places upon the Christian family regarding the need to train up our children in the way they should go.
In urging parents to bring up their children according to the Bible, Wilson reminds us that “the Bible contains many examples of parents who did not do what God required, and the poor job of child-rearing resulted in wrecked lives.” He references King David’s failure to instruct his son Adonijah (cf. 1 Kings 1:5-6): “David will be in heaven; he was a man after God’s own heart. But he was not the kind of father he should have been, and some of his children will not be there with him.”
The modern trends of youth “leaving the faith” of their parents dovetails suspiciously well with the increasingly commonplace practice of Christian parents failing to instruct their children daily in the Bible, presuming upon their children’s spiritual wellbeing, and, perhaps worst of all, sending their children off to the pagan state to learn about life. After 40 hours of secular indoctrination every week for over a decade, our shock should not be in youth “leaving” the Christian faith, but rather in failing to convert to humanism. God is a God of means. We mock his means at our own peril, and the peril of our children.
Christian parents who bemoan their government-educated children’s departure from the faith have misplaced their lament. The reality is that their children are not departing from the way in which they have been trained – they are walking in it. A disciple is not above his state-funded genderqueer teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
But wherever did Christians get the crazy idea that the civil government is responsible for educating their children in the first place? This is America, after all. It’s not like we have a socialistic institution that has been indoctrinating Marxist theories of education into young American minds for the past one hundred years. Wait…